One of the biggest plumbing problems that homeowners can encounter is freezing pipes. Frozen pipes are prone to bursting and can cause flooding and extensive damage to a home. Let’s explore what causes this problem and the steps you can take to prevent it.
The Dangers of Freezing Pipes
Water expands as it freezes, which places tremendous pressure on the pipes that contain it. This means that even the strongest pipes can break if the water inside of them freezes.
While all the pipes in a home are prone to freezing given the right conditions, those that are exposed to extreme cold temperatures, such as swimming pool supply lines, water sprinkler lines, and outdoor hose bibs are the most vulnerable.
Water supply pipes that are situated in unheated areas of the home’s interior, such as basements, attics, cabinets, and garages are also vulnerable. Pipes running against exterior walls that do not have much insulation are also prone to freezing.
Here’s what you can do to avoid this frequent problem.
Insulate Your Pipes
Whether you live where temperatures regularly drop below freezing or it only happens occasionally, using pipe insulation in the attic and crawl spaces can make a significant difference as exposed pipes are the most vulnerable to freezing. Keep in mind that using a higher amount of insulation offers your pipes a greater degree of protection.
Before the colder temperatures set in, it is important to look around your home for any leaks that could allow chilly air to get inside and seal them thoroughly. Pay particular attention to the areas around your dryer vents, pipes, and electrical wiring. You can use caulk or insulation to address the leaks you identify.
Another good approach is using thermostatically controlled heat cables or heat tape to wrap your pipes. However, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation and operation and ensure that you stick with products that have gained approval from Underwriters Laboratories or another independent testing organization.
Set Your Thermostat
Keeping your thermostat set at a steady temperature that does not change throughout the day and night can reduce the risk of frozen pipes. Although this may result in slightly higher heating bills, it can help you avoid the much more expensive problem of burst pipes. Additionally, this will decrease the strain on your furnace and may extend its lifespan.
Keep Your Garage Doors Closed
If you have any water supply lines in your garage, keeping your garage doors closed at all times can be helpful in keeping the temperature inside the garage as high as possible when it is cold outside.
Allow Water to Drip
One highly effective way to keep your pipes from freezing is by allowing a small trickle of water to flow. If the temperatures are expected to dip below freezing overnight, try to leave a faucet on an outside wall running slightly and allow warm water to drip.
Secure Outdoor Faucets, Valves, and Hoses
Ahead of the winter season, take some time to disconnect your garden hoses and use indoor valves to shut off any pipes that lead to outside faucets and drain the water from them. This can decrease the possibility of freezing in the span of pipe found just inside the home.
Open the Cabinet Doors Beneath Your Sinks
This simple step can make a huge difference by allowing the heat from your home to circulate around any uninsulated pipes beneath your sinks and appliances that are near exterior walls.
Prepare for Vacation
If you will be going away this winter, be sure to take some measures to protect your home before you leave so you do not come home to a plumbing disaster. Set your home’s thermostat to a temperature that is no lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit and make sure it has a fresh battery.
Turn off your water system and drain it to protect your pipes, but keep in mind that this could deactivate any fire protection sprinkler systems you have in place. If possible, ask your neighbor or a friend to check on your house each day to ensure it is warm enough inside to prevent freezing.
What Should You Do if Your Pipes Freeze?
If your pipes freeze, it is a plumbing emergency. If you turn on faucets and notice that nothing is coming out, leave them turned on and contact a plumber immediately. Do not use any type of electrical appliance in areas of standing water because there is an elevated risk of electrocution. If your water pipes have burst, turn the water off at your home’s main shutoff valve while you wait for a professional to assess the situation.
Contact the Experienced Washington, D.C. Plumbers
Don’t let freezing pipes wreak havoc on your home or business. The experienced D.C. metro area plumbers at O’Connor Plumbing can help with everything from pre-winter plumbing inspections to pipe insulation and emergency burst pipe repair. Reach out today to schedule an appointment.